What defines the “best anime” of all time?
The most logical answer is based on ratings and reviews from sites like MAL (MyAnimeList).
The problem with that is: it’s limited to MAL’S audience. And some reviews aren’t what I’d consider “real” reviews. It’s just childish complaints from anime fans.
Then you have anime polls that Japan runs, gathering no more than 10,000-100,000+ votes in total. A small number when you consider the 50-100 millions of fans around the world.
Because of that, there’s no perfect way to settle these subjective debates.
So with that said… Here’s my list of the greatest anime of all time! Anime that I feel are the BEST, and deserve all or more credit than they’re getting.
67 Best Anime Of All Time (In No Ranking Order):
Monster does one thing well: express the “inner monster” within all of us.
All it takes is the wrong set of circumstances to trigger someone on a dark path. Awakening an evil we never thought ourselves capable of.
Few anime are this realistic.
2. Violet Evergarden
Violet Evergarden shines because of its heartfelt, emotional story telling.
You don’t just feel empathy towards the main character, you also feel it for the support characters who show up along the way.
Violet Evergarden mixes beautiful scenes, amazing animation, and powerful stories all into one ball of greatness.
3. Clannad: After Story
Clannad season 1 was good, but it doesn’t even compare to the greatness of season 2.
Like Violet Evergarden, Clannad After Story is filled with pain and sadness. Both of which few anime have been able to portray so perfectly.
Jormungand is the only anime of its kind to portray the lives of arms dealers. The realism of the story telling, experiences, and the lifestyles led by arms dealers is on point.
This anime is a masterpiece for what it does and intended to do.
5. Madoka Magica
Madoka Magica came into the picture and said: “fuck all this cliché magical girl bullshit, it’s time to shake things up”.
That’s what makes Madoka Magica so good. Instead of following the typical route, it broke convention and turned the genre into something dark and disturbing.
6. Black Lagoon
Like Jormungand, Black Lagoon is one of the grittiest anime on the planet.
Each character has a troubled past associated with rape, sexual abuse, drugs, crime, and everything the underworld represents.
Black Lagoon does it best in this department. And the action speaks for itself.
7. Psycho Pass
Psycho Pass explores sci-fi from the perspectives of police officers and the law. And let’s not forget about the technology that’s so ahead of its time in this anime series.
There are few police series as it is in the anime world, and Psycho Pass makes it interesting to watch without the cliches.
Calling Psycho Pass “original” is an understatement. There’s no comparison for what it does.
8. Sword Art Online
Sword Art Online gets bashed over its head too much. In fact that’s how I discovered it. The haters made me curious.
What SAO does best is blend gaming with virtual reality, and making it slightly dark to spice things up.
In terms of gaming and VR, no anime comes close for what SAO represents. And its success is more than deserved.
It’s an anime that’s ahead of its time.
And Sword Art Online: Alicization is the best we’ve seen from the SAO series so far.
9. Akame Ga Kill
Akame Ga Kill is what happens when citizens in a country rebel against a fraudulent, unethical government and society.
This is what Akame Ga Kill is about, and it makes its point clear through brutality, intense action, and some of the best fight scenes an anime has to offer.
It’s a little unconventional too in the way it handles main characters (and their deaths).
Shiki starts off slow, but ends up becoming something so dark, disturbing and morally challenging, that you won’t know what to think.
It’s this one element that I love most about Shiki. One of the best horrors of all time.
On one hand, Hinamatsuri will make you burst out laughing for its ridiculous comedy.
On the other hand, the anime will bring you close to crying and weeping.
Out of all the anime I’ve watched, so few can manage to express comedy and “sadness” so well without effing up the other.
That’s what makes Hinamatsuri special for me.
12. Miss Kobayashi’s Dragon Maid
Dragons living alongside humans isn’t creative in of itself. But the way the anime executes this concept and turns it into hilarious comedy, along with “slice of life” elements is interesting.
And it looks good doing it.
One of the few anime to tackle tough concepts like depression and suicide.
For this reason alone, and for how it’s portrayed from start to finish is too emotional to ignore.
I appreciate the unique animation too.
14. Dragon Ball Z
DBZ is a classic. It’s the reason the anime industry even exists on a global scale.
There’s nothing else to say.
Bleach is basically DBZ without the OP characters.
Say what you want about Bleach, but no anime can ever replace it for what it does.
16. Flying Witch
Flying Witch is the simplest, most relaxing series I’ve ever watched.
No clichés, fan service or typical nonsense seen in your everyday anime. And that’s what makes Flying Witch stand out.
It’s the closest thing to “real” television, except it’s animated.
17. My Bride Is A Mermaid
Underrated anime series that doesn’t get much love or recognition.
For its time the comedy (and parody) is some of the most well-done I’ve ever come across.
It’s an original comedy in its own right.
18. Fairy Tail
Fairy Tail has the best adventures an anime could offer. Comparable to shows like DBZ.
Never have I seen so many characters that are memorable and worthwhile at the same time.
It’s basically my favorite Shounen series of the 21st century.
19. The Disastrous Life Of Saiki K
One of the funniest, most creative comedies of recent years. I love it insults typical tropes, without actually stepping into that territory.
20. Re Zero: Starting Life In Another World
Another anime that insults typical tropes, and doesn’t take itself too seriously.
And the deep, dark, psychological aspects of Re Zero make it an anime that will make you think.
21. Higurashi: When They Cry
Higurashi is like one big science experiment. It’s almost impossible to know what will happen next, and how things will turn out.
For a horror series, it’s unpredictable, clever, and one of the most thought-provoking.
22. Tanaka Kun Is Always Listless
Simple anime with simple comedy. It’s so simple that it’s funny, and Tanaka Kun is relaxing enough to fall asleep to.
In a good kind of way.
Slice of life that focuses on concepts like self-improvement, growth, mindset and relationships
You can’t compare Barakamon. And for a short series, it has a lot of quality packed into it.
24. My Hero Academia
My Hero Academia is one of the greatest anime of the 21st century. The Shounen genre needed something fresh, and MHA is the answer to that need.
25. Shakugan No Shana
Shakugan No Shana is a large universe filled with Denizens, Flame Haze and humans who are caught in the middle.
It has a nice mix of supernatural elements (without going over the top), decent animation and interesting characters with interesting abilities.
Each season is different, and it’s a classic overall in my eyes.
26. Eureka Seven
A mecha series without no comparison.
Eureka Seven (made by Studio Bones) uses mystery, biblical references, diverse characters and romance to tell its story.
And there’s no Mecha on earth that does it better in this area (not even Darling In The Franxx).
27. Full Metal Panic!
Full Metal Panic takes high school romance, and adds terrorism, action, and realism to the mix.
This is one of those rare anime that gets even better with each season that’s produced.
28. A Silent Voice
A movie about bullying disabled children deserves the top 50+ list without question.
Not just because of its content, but because of how well Kyoto Animation portrayed it.
29. Fate Zero
When it comes to anime with historical elements, Fate Zero dominates. Especially for its insane levels of action, precision and entertainment.
I wouldn’t put any other Fate series about Fate Zero, but it’s too much of a quality series that KNOWS how to shine in the action genre.
30. School Live
School Live looks cute, but in reality it’s one of the deepest shows on this list. Tackling themes like mental illness, psychosis, hallucination and similar topics.
Like Madoka Magica, the anime tricks you into thinking it’s a fun series until it’s too late to turn back.
31. Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann
Gurren Lagann is just a hype series. And when I say hype – I mean it’s energetic, ridiculous, motivational and gets you pumped up.
I can see where shows like Kill La Kill took their inspiration from. Gurren Lagann will always be a classic in my eyes.
32. The Devil Is A Part-Timer
Like the disastrous life of saiki k, this anime is creative in how it handles itself. Few comedy anime can say they’re as creative as THIS while still being entertaining.
The story is just too ridiculous to not be funny. We definitely need a season 2 for The Devil Is A Part Timer!
Thought Provoking anime series, focused on nothing more than:
- Working together to solve puzzles.
- Asking questions.
- And “playing detective”.
On the surface it doesn’t sound world-class, but how its implemented is another story.
34. Dragon Ball Super
I was skeptical in the beginning, but Dragon Ball Super has proven itself once again.
The nostalgia might have worn off from DBZ, but the franchise is still alive and strong in 2018. And its proven once again that the franchise has still “got it” and isn’t going anywhere.
35. Kino’s Travels: The Beautiful World
Kino’s Travels: The Beautiful World is an anime series that does one thing extremely well: tell stories.
Kino travels the world on her motorbike, staying no more than 3 days in each country.
Under the surface this anime reveals deep insights about humans and how we live, on top of the mindsets and psychology that goes behind the diverse cultures we live in.
Easily one of the greatest anime of all time.
36. Kokoro Connect
Kokoro Connect isn’t classed as a “psychological” series, but for how its portrayed? It definitely is.
Slice of life and romance aside, this anime will make you think like no other show of its kind. About things like what your so called “real” friends think about you when talking behind your back. Or what they “think” about you in general.
37. Death Note
After watching Death Note this year (2019) I can see why this anime is recommended by so many people.
I tend to avoid hyped up shows, but the brilliance of the plot, characters and psychological aspects is flawless.
I give Death Note a 10/10. It’s one of the best anime of all time.
38. Nodame Cantabile
Musical anime series with the best comedy, romance, and “Seinen” elements I’ve ever seen.
It’s so unconventional, choosing to punch most clichés right in the face, instead of succumbing to it like similar shows that are average at best.
39. Sakura Quest
Sakura Quest is an underrated slice of life series. Made back in 2017 If I’m not mistaken.
It’s a good mix of tourism, business, lighthearted comedy and a meaningful story that runs from start to finish.
This list wouldn’t be right without it!
40. Kenichi: The Mightiest Disciple
Kenichi takes it upon himself to train in the martial arts, giving him the power to defend himself and reclaim his self-confidence.
In a world where bullying happens everyday, this anime is inspirational. Especially for teenagers.
41. Guardian Of The Sacred Spirit
I love anime with a feeling of “history” attached to it.
Guardian Of The Sacred Spirit is about an abandoned prince and his female bodyguard.
Production I.G outdid themselves again (they made Psycho Pass).
42. Food Wars
What anime do you know that takes food, and adds ecchi without making a fool of itself?
Food Wars dominates in the “food” genre, if that’s even a thing.
You won’t see a more creative, unique Shounen that takes an unconventional route like Food Wars.
It deserves all the success it can get.
43. A Certain Scientific Railgun
Source: Mikoto Misaka
Railgun, similar to Hinamatsuri, focuses on two things simultaneously.
- Slice of life episodes.
The action is sick, and the slice of life episodes are chilled.
And while we’re on the topic: Railgun is a MUCH better anime than Magical Index.
44. D. Gray Man
D. Gray Man has always felt different to me. Most Shounen are just… Shounen.
There are literally 1000’s of Shounen’s because the genre is saturated with BS.
D. Gray Man is one of a handful that stands-out without ripping off other good shows of similar quality.
45. Code Geass
Code Geass is my #1 Mecha/action anime series, ever.
The clever plots, the strategic characters, the ruthlessness of Lelouch… There’s too much to name here in terms of why Code Geass is so brilliant.
But one thing that stands out is the “chess-like” strategy elements.
Lelouch thinks 5 steps head and will do whatever it takes to mitigate any problems that come pop up in battle.
There’s also some similarities between Lelouch Lamperouge and Light Yagami from Death Note!.
46. Assassination Classroom
Another fresh series in the “school” genre of anime.
Comparing this to your modern-day school anime is insulting. Because it’s so unique in its approach and the main character: Koro Sensei is written better than most of your typical characters these days.
The plot itself is original and nothing like anything you can try comparing it ot.
47. Samurai Champloo
The one thing I respect most about Samurai Champloo is how it blends Samurai culture with the vibes of Hip Hop.
I can’t think of any anime that does this. And the 3 main characters are so different to each other, that it makes each one of them easy to remember.
Samurai Champloo is an absolute classic.
Kaizaki Arata, a 27-year-old NEET is given another chance to “re-do” his life. Giving him the opportunity to fix his mistakes, and make something of himself.
ReLife is another surprisingly fresh school series that’s so underrated.
49. Elfen Lied
For some – Elfen Lied is too bloody and over the top. But I don’t see that.
Elfen Lied is a cry for help. A sad story with an even sadder ending.
It’s a reflection of how disgusting human beings can be, and how hypocritical our actions are.
Charlotte is just a unique series. It takes the usual concept of superpowers, and flips it on its head.
Instead of each character having limitless power, there are limits to what they can do. And even downsides to using their abilities, making it more realistic and simpler than comparable shows.
51. Little Witch Academia
If I ever got the chance to be a “kid” again, this is the anime I’d watch.
- No fan service.
- No “attempted” fan service.
- No perverted BS.
- No Ecchi.
Basically: all the clichés you can find in a similar series doesn’t exist in LWA.
Studio Trigger outdid themselves, and the anime deserves more recognition than it’s gotten so far.
There’s nothing like old school 90’s anime. Slayers walked its own path, and inspired the “strong female” character tropes you see in modern-day shows.
I call it the old school version of Fairy Tail (without the fan service). It’s a good alternative for DBZ fans.
Another old school series I couldn’t help adding to this list. Some of the old school drawings and designs are my favorites to this day.
I don’t talk about Inuyasha a lot, but it’s still a favorite regardless.
It’s original for its time, and Isekai wouldn’t be the same without Inuyasha.
K-On is the king and queen of “Moe” as we know it. But that’s not what makes the anime worth mentioning.
K-on is a popular series that has no real plot, but has enough entertaining characters and episodes to make it worthwhile.
The comedy is some of the best I’ve seen in an anime series, and I wouldn’t even consider K-On a “strict” comedy.
55. Soul Eater
Soul Eater is so underrated in the Shounen genre. The amount of times this show never pops up in conversation is surprising. Because the anime itself is what I’d call “mainstream” for its success.
It’s a prime example of what a “great” Shounen series looks like with a female (and male) protagonist. And support characters with male + female roles.
56. Golden Kamuy
Golden Kamuy is a rare series for its historical nature. Few anime go as deep into their history like Golden Kamuy, which highlights an old Japanese race called: Ainu.
And the fact that Golden Kamuy is entertaining without being too educational makes it fun and enjoyable to watch.
57. A Place Further Than The Universe
If you know me well – you’ll know that I can’t stand watching anime in the subbed version. I’d rather watch dubbed and avoid reading the subtitles simultaneously.
But A Place Further Than The Universe had me so curious I watched it in the original version. And I’m blown away by the quality.
It’s one of the most refreshing adventure series to have released back in 2018.
Calling it “inspirational” is an understatement!.
58. Yona Of The Dawn
Yona Of The Dawn is an anime I’ve always wanted to watch. I’m glad I did.
Somehow Yona Of The Dawn is an adventure, supernatural series with comedy so fresh (and silly) that it’s surprising. Especially on top of all the action, occasional romance and battle-scenes from time to time.
Now it needs a season 2!
59. Kill La Kill
It’s impossible how an Ecchi series can be so action packed with a story written so well.
And that’s why Kill La Kill crushed my poor expectations and grabbed my interest.
Studio Trigger out-done themselves with this one. It’ll always be one of my top anime of all time.
I never thought “Shoujo” anime could be so entertaining. And that’s where I was wrong.
After running into an anime like Nana, produced by Madhouse, I can’t believe how realistic and powerful this romance series is.
The designs are “true to life”, and the characters are so relatable in so many aspects.
Few romance come close to this for its realism.
61. Aria The Animation
The best way to describe this anime is: gentle, easy-going and so relaxing it’s like chilling at the beach.
It’s lightweight on comedy, but the subtle life lessons and warm-hearted main character makes this a slice of life series no fan should ever miss.
This is another Ecchi series that destroyed my low expectations. And replaced it with satisfaction.
Shimoneta is a hard pill to swallow for most fans, because of how extreme it is for its beliefs, plot, language and purpose. But if you can stomach it, you’ll be surprised at the depth and even comedy this anime has to offer.
Minami-Ke is an underrated, forgotten slice of life and comedy series. It’s about 3 sisters who live in the same household, and all the shenanigans they get up to.
With 3 seasons in total and cliches that are actually funny, I never got through an episode without laughing my ass off.
I’d rate it a 10/10 without hesitating.
64. Land Of The Lustrous
Land Of The Lustrous is an anime that makes CGI look better than ever. And if you’ve watched a lot of anime, you’ll know how terrible CGI is in general.
Land Of The Lustrous takes it to another level for its quality of animation. I’d say it’s even better than Violet Evergarden in its own way.
And the story itself is mysterious but interesting enough to carry you through till the end without feeling like you’ve wasted your time.
It’s a great series with memorable characters.
65. Monogatari Series
Monogatari is a special kind of anime in the supernatural/demon genre. It’a the type of anime that’s filled with dialogue and “chatty” episodes, so it might turn some people away.
But if you stick with it and get to the good parts, you’ll realize how thought provoking and intriguing this anime turns out to be.
And with it being produced by Studio Shaft, the animation and transitions between scenes is beautiful.
It’s poetry in motion.
Nisekoi is also produced by studio Shaft, just like Madoka Magica and Monogatari.
This is not like your typical harem anime where its so full of cliches and stupid tropes that it’s hard to take it seriously.
Nisekoi is a quality series with some worthy characters that make the whole anime light up like a Christmas tree in December.
The “art” is incredible.
If you wanna watch a slice of life series with a lot of DEPTH to the characters, and thought provoking messages – Oregairu is the one to see.
Almost none of the characters in this series isn’t written well. The main characters hold a lot of value in the overall story, and the sometimes “hidden” messages under the surface.
I feel like Oregairu is underrated and not enough people shout about it too much. Even though it’s rated highly.
- You’re Under Arrest.
- Alice & Zouroku.
- Tamako Market.
- Owari No Seraph.
- New Game!
I’m the Founder of Anime Motivation. The #1 website dedicated to making a difference in the anime community.
The 1st anime I watched was Dragon Ball Z. Followed by Claymore, Inuyasha, Attack On Titan, and the rest as they say is “history”.